(June 29, 2020). I enjoyed Sunday’s BET Awards. The performances were mostly flawless, highly polished numbers that clearly benefitted from their virtual settings. The hassle of having elaborate stages, awkwardly timed commercial breaks (actually that still happened), and lengthy acceptance speeches should be eschewed by the show’s producers going forward. I would imagine that a virtual show is a much lower costing prospect as well.
The BET Awards gets kudos for putting on this year’s show as originally scheduled. Not only did they pull it off, but they did so with a quality show, one that likely laid the blueprint for other such shows when the awards season kicks in at the end of this year and early next.
I hope the Grammys and the AMAs were taking notes. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, other shows like the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs have all postponed their dates and extended the eligibility periods accordingly. Note to those shows: you’ll likely have to postpone again – or cancel them altogether – if your goal is to fill a large venue with thousands of people by next spring.
BET, however, stuck to its guns – and social distancing remained intact – proving that all aspects of entertainment don’t have to come to a screeching halt or be placed on indefinite hold in times like these.
Here are some other reactions to this year’s show:
Didn’t it just seem fitting that the first awards show to air during the coronavirus and George Floyd eras was the BET Awards? This affair was awash with Black Lives Matter slogans, PSAs and other timely sentiment expressed in the wake of international protests over police brutality against blacks. It’s just too bad that the show didn’t also use its platform to include commentary about the disproportionately high number of blacks affected by the ongoing health pandemic.
Public Enemy’s updated “Fight The Power – 2020” sounds just as dope today as it did 31 years ago…and it’s obviously just as relevant – maybe even more so. It was good to see Flavor Flav with Chuck D. plus P.E.’s DJ Lord, S1Ws and Professor Griff. And that was a nice touch to include Nas, Rapsody and The Roots’ Black Thought with Questlove (on the turntables) as guests on the iconic track.
Jennifer Hudson was definitely channeling her inner Aretha Franklin during that performance of “Young, Gifted and Black.” The ensuing trailer for the RESPECT motion picture starring Hudson as Franklin also piqued this blogger’s interest. The film is slated to be in theaters this December and it suddenly seems more intriguing.
The DaBaby/Roddy Ricch performance of “ROCKSTAR” was fire! DaBaby, who was named Best Male Hip-Hop artist (the first non-Drake winner of the award in years), depicted George Floyd in his last breathing moments under the knee of a white police officer – mimicking the image that sparked many a protest around the world over the past five weeks. Then, suddenly, the scene shifted to a heavenly array of clouds before DaBaby is joined by Ricch to give a performance of their BLM-enhanced No. 1 hit.
Alicia Keys’ performance of her new single “Perfect Way to Die” was sweet and poignant, and it was probably the best song we’ve heard from her in nearly a decade. It was a fitting tribute to those whose lives have been lost to racism and police brutality, with special emphasis on Sandra Bland, who was found dead in a jail cell while in police custody four years ago. Her image was depicted on a huge billboard as Keys sang and played piano on the empty street below.
More kudos to BET for including country music superstar Kane Brown, who performed with gospel star Jonathan McReynolds. Brown’s inclusion this year is an indication that BET finally gets that black music comes in all forms.
That Chloe & Halle medley of “Forgive Me” followed by “Do It” was angelic…another perfectly put together virtual production that featured the duo performing together in adjoining rooms – simultaneously. It would have been much tougher to pull off in a live stage setting. The duo just hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time with the latter tune and this performance should help it move up nicely in the coming weeks.
Jamaican-American R&B singer Masego gave a memorable performance of his ode to black queens with the song “Queen Tingz.” It was one of the few performances where a multi-instrument band was visibly present. They stood among a house filled with potted plants and trees, giving Masego and his band’s set a more intimate feel.
Summer Walker is the future. She may be this generation’s Erykah Badu. Her duet with Usher towards the show’s end included a clever interpolation of his late-‘90s classic “You Make Me Wanna…”
It was good to see Roddy Ricch get the album of the year award for Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial. When all is said and done, he’ll likely be Billboard’s artist of the year and will probably be racking up a lot of other awards for what has been this year’s biggest (and maybe best) album so far.
The tributes to Beyoncé (Humanitarian Award) plus the late Little Richard and Kobe Bryant (both in remembrance) were timely and commendable. But, with so much happening in 2020, didn’t it feel like it was more than just five months ago when Kobe left us?
It was nice seeing Afrobeats artist Burna B representing Nigeria with his Best New International Artist award.
Twenty-two-year-old Nickolas Johnson, the first black valedictorian at Princeton University in its 274-year history, won the Shine A Light Award, and instantly his accomplishment seemed more important than any of the other honors BET awarded on this night.
The production clunker of the night: Talented new R&B singer Lonr being abruptly cutoff for a commercial break as his song “Make the Most” was reaching its soaring finish. This was only supposed to happen during live performances, BET, remember?
The best performance of the night came from D Smoke and his brother SIR, who performed a medley of Smoke’s “Let Go” and “Black Habits,” the latter a poignant song written on the day George Floyd died. The song “Black Habits” depicted a dream world in which everything black was viewed as good.
This year’s BET awards were definitely for us, by us, and unashamedly so. It was almost as if the show’s producers took advantage of the fact that it was simulcast on CBS to further drive home the BLM message.
It takes a special set of skills to put together a show like this during a lockdown and still keep it entertaining. Host Amanda Seales did an outstanding job with no live audience from which to feed. She kept her energy level up the entire three hours. At the end, she revealed a green screen behind her while jokingly noting that she had hosted the entire show from her own home.
DJROBBLOG’s final assessment: BET pulled this off with flying (and united) colors and should consider a virtual production again next year, and for the foreseeable future.
Then again, it may have no choice.
DJRob is an African-American freelance blogger from Chicago who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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